H1B Visa Cap - Regular - Masters - H1B1 - Lottery info - Cap calcuations

What is H1B Visa Cap – Regular vs. Masters Quotas, Calculations, Lottery

In H1B Visa by KumarUpdated : 56 Comments

For anyone new applying H1B Visa would have some basic questions like :

  • What is H1B Visa cap and how it is determined ?
  • What petitions are included, and what are not?
  • What about Chile and Singapore numbers? Etc

With this article, I will try to answer some of the most commonly asked questions.

What is H1B Visa Cap ?

Do not be mislead by the word “Cap” as it can mean many things. In context of H1B visas,  it is nothing but the total number of petitions or maximum limit of petitions count approved by US Congress for any given fiscal year..it has nothing to do with regular cap that we wear 🙂

  • H1B Regular Quota Cap: This is loosely referred as general quota/cap or regular quota or non-advanced degree quota/cap. The annual cap is set as 65,000. It includes 6,800 petitions set aside for Chile-Singapore under free trade agreement and called as H1-B1 program.
  • H1B Advanced Degree Cap: This is loosely referred as Masters’ quota/cap, US Masters degree cap, or US advanced degree etc.  The H1B advanced degree annual cap is set as 20,000.
  • H1-B1 Chile-Singapore Cap: This is the number set aside for applicants from Singapore and Chile. This annual cap is 6,800 and the number is taken out from Regular Cap. Basically it means that effective regular cap petitions quota left after this is 65,000 – 6,800 = 58,200. But, it works out differently, read below.

There are no changes to the cap count for H1B FY 2021 season. There were some discussions done in the past as part of Obama Immigration Reform to increase H1B cap to 110,000.  Since President Trump and various New H1B Visa Bills, it does not look like that will happen.

What is H1B Regular Cap Quota ? Who Qualifies for it ?

It is the general quota limit for H1B visa petitions for anyone who is eligible to file a H1B application. Usually, all the general H1B requirements such as bachelors degree, job falling in specialised skills apply here. In some cases, if there is no bachelors, but the candidate has a lot of experience,  each year of education can be equated with 3 years of experience.  The regular quota cap petitions do NOT have any requirement to have US masters or higher degree.  In general, all petitions fall under this quota cap

What is H1B Master’s Cap Quota ? Who Qualifies For H1B Advanced Degree Cap?

A person who has obtained a U.S. Master’s degree or higher qualifies for this cap quota. A person who has obtained Associate or Bachelor’s degree from US does NOT qualify for this cap. Similarly, a person who has obtained a foreign (i.e. non-US) Master’s degree or higher also does NOT qualify for this. In general, the high level rule is that anyone who qualifies for H1B filing, with a US Masters degree or higher is eligible for this quota cap. You may watch below short video on H1B cap details.

How is H1B Regular Cap Calculated? Is it Less than 65,000 Per year ?

As H1B regular quota includes 6,800 petitions that are for Singapore and Chile free trade agreement, they will less than 65,000 per year. The following equation is used to get the total count for regular quota cap:
Current fiscal year Regular Cap quota  = XXXX
Singapore – Chile Free Trade agreement Petitions (H1-B1 Cap) filed in Previous Fiscal Year = YYYY
H1B Regular Cap for XXXX = Annual Cap for XXXX (i.e. 65,000)H-1B1 Cap for XXXX (i.e. 6,800) + Unused H-1B1 numbers from Previous year YYYY  + Additional petitions accepted by USCIS as Buffer for denials, rejections, etc.  (To clarify, USCIS said in the past that they accept/select in lottery some Extra petitions for a year to account for the petitions that may get denied, rejected or withdrawn during a fiscal year. )

Important Notes:

  1. The unused H1B1 petitions for the previous year are first added to the cap and consumed. So when USCIS publishes a cap count of X number that number already includes the unused H-1B1 number of the previous year. For official statement on this, look at the second question at this USCIS link. You can also refer to this document, which tells that these numbers need to be utilised within first 45 days of the new cap season. The H-1B1 category is heavily under-utilised. As evident from old FY-09 number, only 700 petitions were used (which means 6,100 petitions were added to FY-10 cap). [FY-09 was the year quota got over within first few days, and this shows the low demand for H-1B1 even when there was a huge demand for H-1B]
  2. USCIS has historically accepted more H-1B petitions than available cap numbers based on the assumption that some petitions will be denied, rejected or withdrawn. These numbers are not published separately and so it not possible to what these numbers are. For official statement on this, look at the third question at this USCIS link.
  3. The count of petitions for the current fiscal year only includes petitions that reached USCIS prior to final receipt date (if already declared) and which are either pending processing or have been approved. It doesn’t include any petitions that have already been denied, rejected or withdrawn on the cap publication date.

What Happens After Advanced Degree Cap is Reached, but Regular Cap is Still Open?

Once the Advanced Degree cap is reached, eligible petitions for this cap are routed to Regular Cap. If one looks at historical numbers, the pace at which Regular Cap gets consumed increased once the Advanced Degree Cap is reached.

(Applicable to year when NO H1B Lottery ) Why are the Cap Counts Always In Multiple of Hundreds?

This applies to only scenarios, when the cap lasts beyond 5 days and there is NO H1B lottery. In the pastI don’t know the actual reason to this, but my assumption is that they always round the numbers to nearest hundred for publishing purpose. So instead of publishing count of 21,300 they would publish the number 21,000.

(Applicable to year when NO H1B Lottery ) How can USCIS Determine that the Cap has Reached To Precision?

This applies to only scenarios, when the cap lasts beyond 5 days and there is NO H1B lottery.  We don’t know the actual reason to this, but I will explain my understanding. Let’s say, there are 5,800 unused H-1B1 numbers from previous year. So the cap becomes 64,000 excluding any numbers set aside to account for future denials/rejections/withdrawals. Now, USCIS will determine the historical denial/rejection/withdrawal rate and figure it’s 5% (a hypothetical number) w/ a margin of error of 1% (again a hypothetical number). So the range becomes 4% to 6%, which turns out to be 67,600 to 68,900 (based on a size of 65,000 – 6,800 + 5,800). Once USCIS receives enough petitions in this range, they would declare the cap as closed. This way they don’t need to be precise w/ the count.

When is H1B Cap Lottery Conducted ?

First, the official term USCIS uses is random selection (lottery reminds one of Vegas gambling).

  • H1B Visa Petitions Lottery History : Previously, until fiscal year 2020, when there was extreme demand and more petitions were filed than the available H1B cap numbers, USCIS would accept the petitions under the H1B cap for first 5 days, from the start date of the season ( April 1st to April 5th). If the cap is reached within first 5 days of new filing season, they would use a  computer based random selection to select the H1B petitions to meet the cap. Read regulation info on 5 day rule for H1B Lottery. First it used to be conducted for Advanced Degree or Masters cap. The ones that didn’t make through this were added to Regular Cap, and another random selection was done for these. This process changed from FY 2021 season, since the introduction of H1B Registration Rule.
  • H1B Registration Lottery :  From H1B Visa 2021 Season, USCIS introduced H1B registration rule, but the concept of the H1B lottery still applies, if USCIS receives more petitions than the total cap. The order of the Lottery has changed now, where first the lottery is done for the regular cap and then unselected masters cap petitions are separated and lottery is done for them again.

You may check out How does H1B Visa Lottery Work ?

What are Cap-Exempt Petitions?

H1B Cap-exempt petitions can be filed, if they fall under the below categories :

  • to extend the amount of time a current H1B worker may remain in the US (aka H1B extension)
  • to change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers (aka H-1 amendment)
  • to allow current H-1B workers to change employers (aka H-1 transfer)
  • to allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position (aka concurrent H-1)
  • by an exempted employer like non-profit, hospital, university etc

These petitions can be filed anytime during the year, and are not subject to April 1 filing date and October 1 start date.

Is the H1B Cap Opened Again After Being Declared Closed?

This might disappoint you, but the answer is No. There has never been an instance of cap being opened again once it has been declared closed. One should not rely on this. This may change slightly in the New H1B registration rule that is planned for FY 2021, as they mention that they may open up registrations, if they feel the numbers are not enough. We are yet to see the details.

You may check out the latest updates for the upcoming H1B season at : H1B Visa 2021 Season

Did I miss anything ?  Add your thoughts.


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Comments ( 56 )

  1. Prerna

    Dear Admins,
    I am planning to pursue an online MBA program from Southern New Hampshire University. The program is accredited by ACBSP. Will I be eligible for the Master’s degree quota in H1B ?

    Are online Master’s degree holders eligible for Advanced Degree exemption in h1b ?

    1. Dezignwhiz

      Hello, have you got clarified whether or not ACBSP is accepted by USCIS? I’m planning to do MBA with the same accreditation but worried about the standard. Please advise. Thanks.

  2. Rob Santos


    I have a 2 years university degree, meaning associate’s degree equivalent in US. Two years ago I tried H1B, at that time I had to prove 6 years of experience to complete 12 points to be eligible to the program (I wasn’t chosen by lottery). Also I recall lawyer said in case of success, I wouldn’t be eligible for green card holder, because I didn’t have the bachelor. In other words, “you can stay in US for 3+3 years (renewing the H1B) but you cannot apply for green card because you haven’t a bachelor degree”.
    I’m considering start a master degree in my country. Considering my associate degree+master degree, do you think is possible to apply for a green card in the future in case of H1B visa success? My point is: afraid of having associate+master degree and even then unable to apply for a green card after 6 years in US (thinking about the happy path, getting an H1B and unable to start the green card process).

    Thank you,

  3. bhavya jain

    u have just mentioned how Cap-exempt petitions can be filed but not mentioned what xactly is” cap exempt petition”..is it something free from paying taxes in USA or something else??

  4. N P

    Hello Saurabh
    I want to know 3 things
    1) When forms of h1b application are filled by attorneys under the Masters quota do they write the CIP CODE for the Masters degree program?
    2) or is there option in the application form for STEM/non STEM masters degree program
    3) In h1b lottery is somehow(like algorithm) preference given to STEM degree programs over NON STEM degree programs?

    1. administrator


      1. don’t know
      2. I don’t think I-129 has any checkbox to mark it as STEM vs non-STEM. The only checkbox is for AD vs non-AD.
      3. No preference given to STEM over non-STEM. All AD are equal.

  5. N P

    Hello Saurabh
    I want to know 3 things
    1) When forms of h1b application are filled by attorneys under the Masters quota do they write the CIP CODE for the Masters degree program?
    2) or is there option in the application form for STEM/non STEM masters degree program
    3) In h1b lottery is somehow(like algorithm) preference given to STEM degree programs over NON STEM degree programs?

  6. RAJ

    Hi Saurabh,

    I was graduated on Aug 2016 from a U.S university and currently in OPT status. when i graduated, my school was Accredited by [ACICS], but now The US Department of Education has withdrawn its recognition of the ACICS[Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools]. It is no longer an Accredited agency.

    1) Whether i am eligible to apply H1B Visa in Master’s cap or not ?

    Actually, at the time when i was awarded my masters degree my school was accredited and no issues. could you please let me know that whether school should be currently accredited when applying h1b in master’s cap or not ?

    2) If in case, I was not eligible applying in master’s cap , can I apply in Regular Cap or any other issues will affect if i apply so.. ?

  7. Nilima

    I am planning to apply for my OPT and need to know if i set my EAD start date as April 7th, can a potential employer file my H1-B application?

    1. administrator

      USCIS does not give that split of applications that were Masters or PhD. All they tell is that more than 20k applications were received in masters quota.


    hi my name is utsav would i be eligible for H1B visa as a nursing administration because as per forums of USCIS and per google i have done search that which positions are available than they are showing Nurse Practitioner and CNP so Nurse Manager is not included?
    please help me.

  9. Emran G. Andraos

    hi Saurabh

    my question is related (H1B Visa Cap – Masters Quotas).

    1- How can i check for a University name if its international students master graduates are allowed to apply for H1B visa ?
    2- Is it required for such US master degree to be not less than 2 years duration ? i.e. the master degree which I will do is only 12 months.


  10. Priyanka


    I am currently working in a non-profit organization with more than 7000 employees. I also have a Master degree in Healthcare Administration from Texas. My employer is willing to provide all the documentation required but not willing to pay the visa filing fees. Can I pay the fees and proceed with filing or what are my options?

  11. Ram

    My name is ram. I am going to be graduated from northwestern polytecnic university in 2016 dec . School has accredited uscis till 2018 dec 31. Uscis didnt approve for the new renewel. Would it be a problem for me if i file h1 in 2019 after the school accredation expires?

    1. administrator

      It may be…hard to tell. You can call USCIS to understand the implications or setup an infopass appointment with them to get more details.

  12. Suresh

    Who Qualifies For H1B Advanced Degree Cap?
    A person who has obtained a U.S. Master’s degree or higher qualifies for this cap. A person who has obtained Associate or Bachelor’s degree from US does NOT qualify for this cap. Similarly, a person who has obtained a foreign (i.e. non-US) Master’s degree or higher also does NOT qualify for this.

    Can you please tell If I have a Master Degree from foreign University and wish to apply for Master in US as well.

    Will I be eligible for H1B after my degree in Master from US ?

    1. administrator


      Are you asking if the person has done Masters from non-US school and also from a US school will s/he be eligible for Advanced Degree cap? In this case, the person would be eligible for AD cap based upon his US Masters degree.

    2. Sidharth

      Hi Saurabh,

      Currently i am in my 4th year of H1B and my employer is not willing to file my GC. So, I am planning to purse my masters along with my current job. Will i be able to apply for my next H1B (after the clock resets) under the advanced degree cap. OR is it mandatory to be on F1 to be eligible for advanced degree cap.

      1. administrator


        You can avail H-1 in AD cap even though you completed current Masters on H-1B. Just make sure it is from an accredited non-profit school.

  13. Jerman

    I am an American and am in a relationship with a Singaporean college teacher. She and I trade off visiting each other about four times per year, which is obviously not ideal.

    We are not quite to the point of marriage, but we would like to live together. She has expressed a desire to live in the States for a year or two, but is not quite ready to sell her Singaporean property.

    What would be easier for her?

    H1B or H1B1?

    She has a master degree from the UK, so it should be fairly easy for her to find a one to two year teaching assignment here in the States.

  14. Chuck

    Hi, I currently work for a firm that is applying for an H-1B visa in April. I also have a job offer from another firm who will be applying for a separate H-1B visa for me in April. 2 questions: 1) what are the odds of being selected for the H-1B by at least 1 of the applications based on last year’s data? 2) if I am approved for an H-1B for the firm with the prospective job offer and not approved for my current firm, what is the start date that I can use the H-1B?


  15. Ansu

    I had initiated by H1b for 2014 through a comany X. The company says my petition is approed. But I haven’ got the VISA interview date yet. I also don’t have any documents related to 2014 H1b petition with me. Now my current employer Y wants to intiate H1b for 2015. In this case, if employer X refrains from sharing any info on my 2014 petition, can Y file a new H1b for me without bothering about the transfer?
    I truly appreciate a quick response on this.
    Thank You!!

  16. Dhipak

    Hi Saurabh,
    This is URGENT – requesting your help on this ASAP.

    I had my H1 b petition approved in June 2006 and valid till June 2009.
    I was in US from June 2007 till Oct 2008 ( 16 months in total) and from there i couldn’t go back to US again and it got expired in June 2009.

    Now i want to know if my new company wants to file my H1 – will it go thru the normal cap or can it go thru the Exempt ( as out of the total six years of the first petition in 2006 – i only spent 16 months in US).


  17. Rajavenu

    I have got H1B approval in Aug 2008 and validity on I-797 shows till Sep 2011. I never attended for visa stamping. Kindly advise whether this Petition is valid for visa stamping in case I find an employer now. Thanks in advance.

  18. Venkat

    Hi All,

    My current employer processed H1b last year and got stampped with validity till 21st Dec’2013.Again this year they only applied for extention but during decession stage they denied ( not sure why they denied,they mentioned as below)
    “On November 2, 2014, we denied your Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, We mailed you a decision notice that explains why we denied your case and your options. Please follow the instructions in the notice”

    so now what i need to do,whether i can expect any hopes bcz they mentioned “follow instructions”(by providing some documents ,will they continue? )or again i need to reinitiate for extension?if so please let me know the process & fee …

    Thanks a lot in advance…

  19. Kumar

    Hello Saurabh,

    Please help me with your guidance.

    Here is my visa situation:
    L1 ->2007 to 2012
    H1->2012 to march2013.
    Total 5.5yrs stay.

    i have been in India since April-2013 and now i would like to request my employer to file H1B under cap-exempt and claim un-used 5months. Also request my employer to try a new H1b in April-2015.
    Is it possible that my employer can file a non-cap petition now so i can stay 5months now and then file a fresh H1B in April 2015 ?


  20. Rakesh

    I m planning to complete my MS with H4 visa. After completion of MS if any employer file my H1b Visa then my H1B application will come under regular H1B or Master H1B category? or only F1 visa holder comes under Master H1B category? If anybody have any helpful link then it would be great.

    I will more than happy if you response my question.


  21. rinal

    i am on h1b visa from 2009 on regular cap and i have renew my h1b in 2012 from same company. Now my h1b expired in 2015 after completing my six year. I have master degree from USA too.
    Question :
    Can I apply h1b on academic cap in 2015?

  22. Mallik

    I have completed Masters from USA in January 2009, but I didn’t apply for H1B that year, I came back to India, now I want to go back on H1B can I apply on Student cap as I completed the course and have all related documents, please help me, anyone with same situation.

  23. Sajeev

    All of my friends with a Masters degree (premium and regular processing, both) have received their receipt numbers, but my friends with a Bachelor’s degree haven’t yet heard back. Is there a time lag for these two cases?

  24. IN_7

    Hi Saurabh,
    My situation is the same as Niyati’s above. When I approached a lawyer about the same – I was told that if I hadn’t used my H1B in a year after it was approved, I can’t use it under quota exemption. Although I was counted in 2008 quota and had H1B approved – never used this visa since came to the US on L1. Now 2 years out of my 6 years are left on my 2008 H1B, can another employer do a transfer? If there is a USCIS link or attorney link that can point me towards this answer you have given Niyati, I’d greatly appreciate.
    Thanks for all your help.

  25. Rahul HP

    The company that I work for has applied my H1B on Apr 1 2013 and unfortunately I have been a victim of the lottery this time like many others. I have not been told if my application is selected or not nor I there is been any update on my SEVIS number. Does this is mean that my application got rejected? How do I find out the status of my application? I have been in the dark and nobody knows the answer as to when is the deadline for USCIS to respond back to my application. I called USCIS, my attorney and even my company HR but all in vain, nobody knows the answer. My OPT (F1) expires in Aug and I will have make necessary arrangements to leave the country if I am denied H1B visa.
    Please Advice!

  26. Niyati


    Could you please help me clarifying this question

    I have had H1 B visa which got expired in end of 2011. It was issued for 3 years from the year of 2008, but I never got chance to fly to USA. So the question is

    ” Is it possible that my expired visa can be renewed by same company or any other companies. Does it has any specific date/time for applying or it can be done during anytime in FY year. And it is possible to renew can any one suggest the process and when it is applicable ”

    Here main thing is I have never traveled however my visa was stamped on passport and was given all required documents like I979, LCA etc.

    Would be really grateful for your advice.

    Thank you.

    1. administrator

      Same/different employer can file a cap-exempt petition for you on the basis of previously approved petition. This can happen within 6 years of original approva date. The employer will have to file the petition again and submit old petition as proof of already having been accepted in the cap. USCIS will review the petition and approve it. You can then appear for visa stamping and finally travel to US.

      1. nasir

        Hi, I got a H1B visa stamped in 2001 validity for 3 year in passport, and due to some unavoidable circumstance I was not able to go to US and work for my employer and the initial visa stamping expired after 3 years . And now Im trying for H1 job again, Should I apply for a new H1B visa or can I transfer the Old H1B visa to my new employer? Does the old one still valid??can it be cap-exampt FY2013-2014? Please let me know.
        One of the consulting company offering for Cap-exampt of h1 transfer against fees. is that workable.

        waiting for a response.

        1. administrator

          You cannot go for H-1 transfer as this visa is from 2001. You need to go through the cap again, w/ next date being April 1, 2014.

  27. Saurabh Maheshwari

    Employer B filed an H1B-Visa (in May 2012) for me and is under Initial Review.

    Now my current employer A wants to file a L1-Visa for me.

    Will be there be any complications in the process in US consulate or any chances that fliling of L1 may obstruct or cause rejection of my H1B visa?

    Please suggest..it’s urgent.

    1. administrator

      Saurabh Maheshwari,
      It should not be an issue. I have seen cases where they happened in parallel w/o any issues.

  28. Pankaj

    Hi Saurabh/Kumar,

    i have a very different query, i have applied H1B and petition filed on 25th April. Now because of some update, i need to renew my passport.

    shall i go ahead and renew my passport. Will it put any impact on my application if i renew the passport ??

    Just FYI, I am from Mumbai INDIA.


    1. administrator

      It is ok to get the passport renewed and then appear for stamping w/ the new passport. No impact on the eventual outcome.

  29. Vibha

    Hi Saurabh,

    First of all thanks for your earlier responses. I have got an offer for H1B from one desi company A and my application reach 11th June and even I have received the Application number from uscis. I have following queries:-
    1. Employer A has filed the application for internal project. How likely the internal project H1B applications usually get approval? Are there any problems/queries I can face on this?
    2. My current L1B renewal (under RFE) is getting processed through my current employer B with skills mentioned as Linux, Unix support admin where as H1B filed with skills of QA person on Java, J2EE. Does that hurt my application as they might compare the skills on L1B and H1B?
    3. The offer given has salary of 62K for LCA (San Diego), does that meet the minimum wages for this state or the application may directly be rejected if its lower salary?
    4. Would this kind of salary go for EB2 or EB3 for future processing? Can we change that later to file it in the right category?
    5. Are there any other possibilities of rejection? Does the rejection happens directly or RFE query is sent and then amendments can be made to documents like Offer Letter etc.?

    Regards, Vibha

    1. administrator

      1. If the project is genuine then it should be fine. However, if it was used a placeholder then you may run into issues.
      2. As long as you have experience letters etc to show that you possess those skills, it should be fine
      3. I don’t know what the minimum wages are for SD for that job category. Your employer must have got the LCA approved, and that would have been approved for the appropriate minimum wages.
      4. EB-2 or EB-3 depends upon your work experience, education and the offered GC position.
      5. They would usually send out the RFE and your employer can make reasonable changes when responding to it.

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